Out of the shadows

Well, we figure we’ve kept everyone in the dark for long enough. CalSol is excited to give a first glimpse at the shape of our future, a new body that promises aerodynamic performance far beyond what we’ve produced in the past.  Unfortunately, we’re going to have to keep the exact details of what we expect to achieve to ourselves for a while, but if our CFD analysis is any indicator, our new vehicle should be very competitive.

Thanks SpeedGraphics!

A special thanks to the great guys at www.speedgraphics.net!  They have helped us make the car look great with their awesome vinyl decals and joined with CalSol as a Friends level sponsor.  Be sure to check them out for all your decal and logo needs at www.speedgraphics.net!

Formula Sun Wrap Up, Part II

On Monday, CalSol’s trip came to a close. With GoldRush safely home, it is time to reflect on the journey that we embarked on. (Click here to see photos of the race).

First and foremost, we would like to thank our sponsors for their monetary and material support, without which CalSol would not exist. Secondly, thank you to all the team members who have toiled for many months, surrendering your free time, sleep, and grades to finish the car in time for Formula Sun. Lastly, thank you to all our families who have seen very little of us because we were “working on the solar car”.

While engineers are obsessed with performance and numbers, I think it diminishes the accomplishments of this team to dwell on the numerical results of the race. Yes, it’s true, we finished 9th out of 9 qualifying teams, with only 67 laps compared to Minnesota’s 487, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The most amazing part of our race occurred before we even entered the track for the first time.

When we arrived in Texas, we had what we thought was a nearly complete car, needing only a few finishing touches on the electrical system before we would pass scrutineering. The electrical team focused its attention on the Battery Protection System, a critical system that monitors our lithium ion batteries for conditions that could damage them or start a fire. However, after 2 days of working on it nonstop, we decided that there were fundamental design flaws that would prevent it from working no matter how many microchips we replaced, how much soldering we did, or how much code we wrote. While less dedicated and resourceful teams would have called it quits and packed up, CalSol was determined to get out on the track and race.

Berkeley engineers may be criticized as “theoretical” and “not practical”, but there wasn’t any theory that would get us out onto the track. As we wrote earlier, after the race had already begun, we decided to switch to lead acid batteries, a much simpler chemistry, but also much heavier and with less capacity. Within a few hours, we had located a distributor of suitable batteries, planned the mechanical changes needed to accommodate the extra volume and weight, and mapped out the necessary electrical rewiring. By Thursday morning, we had debunked the myth and passed the remaining scrutineering tests.

And so every one of those 67 laps was a triumphant reminder of what we as Berkeley engineers are capable of accomplishing in spite of the most challenging circumstances.

Go Bears!

Our next public appearance will be at the Marin County Fair on July 1-5. Come out and see GoldRush as a part of the Electric Wheels Car Show!

Formula Sun Wrap Up, Part I

CalSol began the last day of the race looking forward to 10 hours of racing, but unfortunately we were unable to begin with the other teams due to some mechanical problems from Thursday’s racing, and also our brake lights stopped working. By 10:30 AM we had fixed the problems, tuned the suspension, and demonstrated to the scrutineers that our car was solid and safe. We quickly discovered that retuning the suspension improved our handling and made the drivers more comfortable on the numerous sharp corners on the track. After a couple of hours of racing, our driver came in to report hearing strange sounds coming from the motor. It took a while, but we finally determined to our relief that our motor was fine and that a bad wheel rim was to blame for the sound. With a replacement wheel on the car, we sent our drivers back out for the last 2 hours of the race.

Unlike the other teams who had drained their batteries after 3 days of racing, we had a relatively full pack, so we were able to finish the race very strong, lapping most other teams several times near the end. Everyone, from the race officials and corner flagmen to the other teams, was very supportive and flashed us thumbs up as we passed by. It has been touching to experience the camaraderie that the teams share, and we would again like to thank all the teams for giving us advice, loaning us tools and materials, and cheering us on as we made progress.

Formula Sun Grand Prix

With finals and the spring semester behind us, and the summer ahead, CalSol has focused its full attention on completing the car. On May 29th, the intrepid members of CalSol will load our newly finished and newly named solar car, GoldRush, into our (t)rusty trailer and head to Texas to participate in the 2009 Formula Sun Grand Prix track race. We hope that this will be the first of several updates before, during and after the “rayce”.

A special thanks to Training-Classes.com for their continued support of CalSol. Learn more about careers in Solar Energy with their Solar Power Training.

Also, we thank and welcome our newest sponsor, DASolar.com. Visit their website to learn more about solar panels and solar panel installation.